Famous for its sunny skies and spectacular beaches, Florida’s thousands of miles of coastline offers numerous places for underwater activities, from snorkeling and scuba-diving to swimming, sailing and sunset cruising.
The sub-tropical climate makes it a perfect year-round getaway that is packed with fantastic spots to explore the underwater world from Fort Lauderdale to the Florida Keys. Home to the Florida Reef, which stretches from Miami to the Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida, offers some of the best snorkeling and diving in the country, and here are some great places for you hit the water.
1. A Family Fun Boat Tour Company
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Explore Islamorada on a family fun boat tour with the Family Fun Boat Tour Company. The company offers private, guided boat trips that provide exclusive access to some of the best spots in and around Islamorada and the Upper Florida Keys. Conveniently located at Isla Marina on Plantation Key in Islamorada, the family-friendly adventure company offers a range of tours from sightseeing, snorkeling, and sunset cruises to tailor-made eco-tours. Snorkeling tours in Islamorada offer some of the best snorkeling in the world with warm, crystal-clear turquoise and cobalt blue waters teeming with marine life. Tours explore the only living coral reef in North America, which is home to more than 50 species of coral and almost 500 species of fish, and all equipment such as masks, snorkels, fins, snorkel vests, and swim noodles (optional) is provided. Explore Islamorada beaches on vacation.
85920 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036, Phone: 305-896-2915
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2. Bahia Honda State Park
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Set on the island of Bahia Honda in the lower Florida Keys, Bahia Honda State Park is one of Florida's southernmost state parks and is renowned for its beautiful beaches, excellent snorkeling, and magnificent sunsets. Camping is available at the park at two campsites, namely Buttonwood and Bayside. Buttonwood offers a variety of sites for camping rigs from large RVs to small tents with gravel sites, electricity, water, picnic tables, and grills. The campsite has a bathhouse with restrooms and hot showers, as well as a dump station, and some sites have spectacular ocean views. Bayside is much smaller with just eight campsites, all of which are non-electric but have picnic tables, grills, and water. There is a small restroom nearby, and campers can use the bathhouse at Buttonwood for hot showers. Browse our best places to visit in Florida guide for more ideas.
Monroe County, Florida
3. Bathtub Reef Beach
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Located on the northern side of Hutchinson Island in Stuart, Bathtub Beach is a lovely family-friendly beach with a reef that stretches very close to shore, breaking the waves and keeping the waters close to the beach calm and clear, making it an ideal location for snorkeling and scuba diving. The waters within the reef break are home to over 500 species of marine creatures, including sea turtles and are great for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. The outer reef is popular with windsurfers, and kiteboarders and the state beach has lifeguards on duty, making it safe for swimming. Florida beaches offer a cheap way to enjoy the state's natural beauty.
1585 SE MacArthur Blvd, Stuart, FL 34996, Phone: 772-221-1418
4. Biscayne National Park
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Biscayne National Park is a spectacular national park that is home to shoreline mangrove forests and uninhabited islands, beautiful coral reefs teeming with marine life, lush sea-grass beds, and aquamarine waters and several shipwrecks. Accessible only by boat, the pristine reefs in the park offer some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the world, including the underwater Maritime Heritage Trail, which has six shipwrecks. The park’s mostly submerged 173,000 acres are home to more than 500 species of fish, including sharks, and rays, as well as jellyfish, crabs, and sea turtles and offer a watery playground for snorkelers, scuba divers, swimmers, and anglers, as well as boaters, windsurfers, and sunset cruises. Browse our things to do in Florida guide for more ideas.
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5. Coastline Dolphin & Snorkeling Excursions
Coastline Dolphin & Snorkeling Excursions is a family-owned and operated business that offers guided trips on the beautiful waters of Anna Maria that are home to manatees, dolphins, and a plethora of other marine life. USCG captain certified in CPR and First Aid, Captain Kasay Gunter, takes guests out on his 22-foot sturdy Boston Whaler boat to cruise around the water, stopping for swims and snorkeling excursions along the way. The boat is spacious and dry, and all safety equipment like life jackets, masks, snorkels, fins, and snorkel vests are provided.
12312 Manatee Ave W, Bradenton, FL 34209, Phone: 941-201-8429
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6. Snorkeling in Florida: Coral Cove Park
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Coral Cove Park is a waterfront park with a lifeguard-protected beach near the Indian River in Tequesta that offers excellent swimming, snorkeling, and saltwater fishing. Managed by Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation, the 15-acre park boasts more than 2,000 feet of beachfront, most of which are natural limestone, and 600 feet of Intracoastal waterways frontage. The protected beach and nearby Blowing Rocks Preserve in Jupiter offer excellent snorkeling with coral reefs teeming with marine life such as fish, nurse sharks, eels, sea turtles, and crabs. The beach also has many shells for beachcombers and shell collectors. Read about the best Florida weekend getaways for a relaxing vacation.
19450 County Hwy 707, Tequesta, FL 33469, Phone: 561-966-6600
7. Dry Tortugas National Park
The Dry Tortugas National Park is a national park in the Gulf of Mexico that preserves the seven Dry Tortugas islands, which are most isolated of the Florida Keys, as well as Fort Jefferson. Located about 68 miles west of Key West, the park is part of the Everglades & Dry Tortugas Biosphere Reserve and a UNESCO site and boasts beautiful coral reefs that are abundant with sea life, several tropical bird breeding grounds, and legends of shipwrecks and sunken treasures. The massive but unfinished fortress of Fort Jefferson is the centerpiece of the park and is the brick masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere. The seven islands of the Dry Tortugas are a unique and undisturbed tropical ecosystem with significant historical artifacts and are only accessible by seaplane. Activities in the Dry Tortugas National Park include swimming, kayaking, saltwater fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, birdwatching, camping, and picnicking.
More ideas: Things to do in St. Augustine.
8. Famous Bird's Underwater Manatee Dive Center
Enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience of swimming with manatees on a customized guided trip with Famous Bird's Underwater Manatee Dive Center. Located directly on King’s Bay and run by Bill “Bird” and Diane Oestreich, who have been operating in the Crystal River area for the past 30 years, the family-friendly dive center offers tailor-made manatee snorkel tours and scuba diving instruction for all skill levels. In addition to snorkeling with manatee trips, the dive center also rents scuba diving equipment, kayaks, scuba diving courses and lessons, and guided kayaking tours of the surrounding waters.
320 US-19, Crystal River, FL 34428, Phone: 352-563-2763
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9. Florida Dolphin and Snorkel Tours
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Florida Dolphin and Snorkel Tours is a small, family-owned and operated business that offers eco-friendly experiences, dolphin and snorkeling tours in and around Panama City Beach. The eco-tour outfitter offers several different tours, including Dolphin, Sunset Dolphin, and Shell Island Dolphin and Snorkel Combo Tours, as well as private charters. The Shell Island Dolphin and Snorkel Combo tour include dolphin encounters, wildlife encounters, and identification, snorkeling excursions with all equipment provided, a stop on Shell Island, and refreshments. Groups are kept to a maximum of six people to ensure a minimal footprint on the surrounding marine environment.
3901 Thomas Dr, Panama City, FL 32408, Phone: 850-866-8815
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10. Florida Shark Diving
Located in U-Tiki Beach, Florida Shark Diving offers world-class shark diving experiences in one of the top shark diving destinations in the world. Florida Shark Diving is based in Palm Beach, which is home to some of the largest numbers of sharks in the world, including Great Hammerhead, Tiger, Bull, Reef, Sandbar, Dusky, Silky, and Lemon sharks. The adventure company offers two different types of trips that cater guests’ needs – Shark Diving Trips, including cage diving and freediving with sharks and Shark Viewing Trips, where guests can watch the sharks up close from the boat. Trips take place just 30 minutes from the marina location and cater to groups, divers, and families alike. More day trips from Naples
1095 Florida A1A, Jupiter, FL 33477, Phone: 305-395-9140
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11. Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
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The Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, also known just as Fort Taylor is a state park and National Historic Landmark located near the southern tip of Key West. The 54-acre state park is home to a three-story brick fortress that was built in 1866 and played in essential roles in the Civil War and Spanish-American War, once housing the largest collection of Civil War cannons in the United States. The park also features a well-maintained sandy beach with chairs, umbrellas and water sports rentals, picnic tables, and a beachfront café complete with ice cream. The beach offers excellent snorkeling with an abundance of tropical marine life such as schools of yellowtail snapper, parrotfish, lobster, and an array of hard and soft corals.
601 Howard England Way, Key West, FL 33040, Phone: 305-292-6713
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12. John D. MacArthur Beach State Park
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John D. MacArthur Beach State Park is a quiet sanctuary in North Palm Beach that boasts almost two miles of beautiful white sandy beachfront lapped by crystal clear waters that are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and fishing. Located on Singer Island, the park is named for John D. MacArthur, who donated a portion of the land in the 1970s for a state park and features beautiful landscapes of coastal, tropical hammock and mangrove forests, which are home to a wide diversity of fauna and flora. The barrier island state park also features a visitor’s center, a nature trail, a children’s playground, and kayaking and canoeing on the Lake Worth Lagoon. Activities in the park include swimming, snorkeling, surfing, fishing, wildlife watching, and picnicking.
10900 Jack Nicklaus Drive, North Palm Beach, FL 33408, Phone: 561-624-6950
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13. Snorkeling in Florida: Keys Diver & Snorkel Tours
Keys Diver is a leading Blue Star Dive Center in Key Largo that offers guided diving and snorkeling trips in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Key Largo is home to the third-largest reef in the world and teems with a myriad of brightly colored corals, fish, sea turtles, and other marine creatures. Snorkeling tours explore various sections of the reef around Key Largo, including Grecian Reef, North Dry Rocks, White Banks, Molasses Reef, Mosquito Banks, and Key Largo Dry Rocks Reef and the famous Christ of the Abyss Statue. Snorkeling tours are led by certified scuba diving, and snorkeling instructors and all equipment such as masks, snorkels, fins, and snorkel vests are provided.
99696 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL 33037, Phone: 305-451-1177
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14. My Islands Adventure Fishing Charter & Snorkeling
Located in Phil Foster Park, My Islands Adventure Fishing Charter & Snorkeling is a locally-owned and operated Charter Boat Company on Singer Island off West Palm Beach. Tours are conducted on a comfortable and spacious 2002 Grady White 330 Express vessel that has modern bathroom facilities and ample space for up to six people. The unique private charter boat company offers a variety of custom-made deep-sea fishing, snorkeling, sightseeing, and day and sunset cruises in the crystal-clear waters off Palm Beach, Jupiter, Singer Island, and West Palm Beach. Private Tours to the Bahamas are also available.
900 Blue Heron Blvd, Riviera Beach, FL 33404, Phone: 561-262-7150
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15. Old Homosassa Snorkeling Center
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Based in the beautiful Gulf Coast fishing town of Old Homosassa, the Old Homosassa Snorkeling Center offers guided snorkeling tours, scalloping charters, sunset cruises, and tailor-made manatee and dolphin-watching tours. Led by professional USCG Certified Captains in well-maintained boats, fun and educational tours are conducted on the beautiful Homosassa River and in the world-famous Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, which are home to a wide range of rescued and rehabilitated native Florida wildlife, including manatees, wading birds, a plethora of fish species and more. Guests can snorkel in this pristine environment or descend underwater without ever getting wet in the Fishbowl Observatory. Guests can enjoy manatee tours to the Blue Waters just outside the park to swim with manatees.
10460 W New York St, Homosassa, FL 34448, Phone: 352-601-8992
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16. Phil Foster Park
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Phil Foster Park is a 14.7-acre beach park on a small island under the Blue Heron Bridge, which connects Signer Island to Florida mainland. The Phil Foster Park features a life-guarded beach, a children’s playground, and a fishing area and is home to the Blue Heron Bridge snorkeling trail (Phil Foster snorkel trail), which offers visitors the chance to experience some of Florida’s amazing marine life. Boasting clear, warm waters with an average depth of 6-10 feet and teeming with many species of fish, the 800-foot snorkeling trail runs about 200 feet offshore and mimics a barrier reef complete with six concrete blocks and several larger and several smaller rock piles along the shore. Other attractions along the snorkeling trail include a small shipwreck, old shopping carts, and three hammerhead shark statues. Browse beaches near Orlando
900 Blue Heron Blvd, Riviera Beach, FL 33404, Phone: 561-966-6600
17. Red Reef Park
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Red Reef Park is a 67-acre oceanfront park on one of Florida's most scenic highways that offers excellent swimming, snorkeling, surf fishing, and extensive picnic facilities. Hailed as one of the best-kept snorkeling secrets of Boca Raton, Red Reef Park boasts a beautiful reef that is home to brightly colored hard and soft corals, a myriad species of fish, eels, rays, sharks and more. Red Reef Park is also home to the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center and the Red Reef Executive Golf Course, and lifeguards patrol the beach year-round.
1400 N Ocean Blvd, Boca Raton, FL 33432, Phone: 561-393-7974
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18. Reef Roamer Catamaran Sail and Snorkel Trips
Snorkel Key Largo offers a variety of eco-tours, including snorkel trips and snorkel tours in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary & John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Home the only living coral barrier reef in the country, the two marine sanctuaries teeming with a variety of marine life, including hard and soft corals, hundreds of fish species, rays, eels, sharks, and dolphins. Snorkeling locations include Mosquito Bank and Grecian Rocks, Canon Patch Reef, and the 178-mile John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Other fun adventures include sunset catamaran cruises in and around Key Largo.
99751 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL 33037, Phone: 305-453-0110
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19. Shell Key Shuttle
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Shell Key is a small 195-acre barrier island within the Shell Key Preserve, which spans nearly 1,900 acres in the mouth of Tampa Bay. The island is a beautiful secluded getaway spot with white sandy beaches laid with shells and excellent snorkeling in the clear waters off the shore. Accessed only by the Shell Key Shuttle and private boats, the island offers some of the best shelling and birding on the Gulf Coast, being an essential sanctuary for nesting, wintering, and migrating birds. Activities on the island range from sunbathing, beachcombing, swimming, bird and wildlife watching, and snorkeling. More Tampa beaches
801 Pass a Grille Way, St Pete Beach, FL 33706, Phone: 727-360-1348
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20. Snorkel with the Manatees, LLC
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Snorkel with the Manatees, LLC offers small and intimate swimming and snorkeling tours on two different rivers to guarantee the most memorable encounters. The Florida Homosassa Springs Manatee Encounter is a secluded manatee tour and takes place on the Homosassa River, where visitors can get up close and personal with these beautiful creatures. The other journey takes place on the Crystal River, which is home to the largest manatee sanctuary in the world and offers guests the opportunity to snorkel with more than 400 of the gentle giants. Professional guides and naturists lead tours, and all snorkeling equipment such as equipment like life jackets, masks, snorkels, fins, and snorkel vests are provided.
10806 West Halls River Rd, Homosassa, Florida 34448, Phone: 352-257-8687
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21. Snorkeling Near Me: South Florida Diving Headquarters
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South Florida Diving Headquarters is a certified dive center on North Riverside Drive in Pompano Beach that offers scuba diving and snorkeling excursions, internationally recognized PADI and SSI instruction, and customized charters. The dive center provides custom snorkeling experiences in Boca Raton, Pompano Beach, Dania Beach, Delray Beach, Palm Beach, Deerfield Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, and Miami. Excursions are conducted on spacious 45-foot power cats or 34-foot dive boats and all cater to all skill levels. Tours are guided by professional guides and naturists, and all snorkeling equipment such as equipment like life jackets, masks, snorkels, fins, and snorkel vests are provided. There aer many great things to do in Pompano Beach.
125 North Riverside Drive, Pompano Beach, Fl 33062, Phone: 800-771-3483
22. Snorkeling in Florida: Spirit Snorkeling
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Spirit Snorkeling of Marathon offers guided daily snorkeling trips to Pirate’s Cove and Sombrero Reef, as well as regular sunset celebration trips. The weather-dependent tours explore the Sombrero Reef Marine Sanctuary and historical Sombrero Lighthouse, along with one of the Florida Keys’ locales - Pirate’s Cove. The Sombrero Reef is the third-largest barrier reef in the world and home to more than 30 acres of pristine coral reef that teems with brightly colored fish and other marine life. Built before the Civil War, the historic Sombrero Lighthouse is still operational and helps mariners navigate the Keys with its light. Spirit Snorkeling of Marathon trips is held on a 34-foot Coral Island Power Catamaran with plenty of stability and spacious seating both in the sun and shade, a marine toilet, a freshwater shower, and two large swim platforms for easy access into and out of the water.
1480 Overseas Hwy, Marathon, FL 33050, Phone: 305-289-0614
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23. St. Pete Beach Snorkeling
Set on a barrier island, west of St. Petersburg, St. Pete Beach is a Florida resort city with beautiful white, sandy beaches, and a variety of attractions and activities. Overseen by the pink Moorish-style Don Cesar Hotel, or ‘Pink Palace,’ a 1928 landmark and icon of the island, St. Pete Beach is sprinkled with nostalgic Old Florida hotels and inns, and features the longest undeveloped stretch of public beach in the county - Pass-a-Grille Beach. Outdoor activities range from swimming, beachcombing, and paddleboarding, to surfing, kitesurfing, and windsurfing, and cultural attractions include the lively Corey Avenue district, which is packed with museums, art galleries, trendy specialty shops, restaurants, cafés, and bars.
200A Madonna Blvd, Tierra Verde, FL 33715, Phone: 727-742-2277
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Attraction Spotlight: Dry Tortugas National Park
Tucked into the Gulf of Mexico, there is a gem of a national park that is ancient and protected, balancing human intervention delicately with deep research. Measuring just 104 acres, which is a lot smaller than some of America’s parks that boast national heritage, the Dry Tortugas National Park is a collective name for an archipelago of seven small islands. Only 1% of the area is above the water – 99% of the park is underwater. The home to hundreds of bird species, animals and reptiles as well as Fort Jefferson, the western world’s largest brick construction, the park is only accessible by sea or air and is a haven of a place if you like bird-watching, snorkeling, diving or exploring ancient shipwrecks under the sea. And especially, if you have an inordinate fondness for sea turtles, visiting this national park is a beautiful and memorable experience.
Blending history with undisturbed natural artifacts, Dry Tortugas is like a little sacred place that was discovered by colonialists who had the foresight not to interfere with the area’s ecosystem. In 1976, it was ratified as part of the Everglades and Dry Tortugas Biosphere Reserve, which falls under the guardianship of UNESCO. Tortugas means “Turtles” and “Dry” refers to the fact that there is no fresh water on these islands, and this we know from the diaries of 16th century European explorer Juan Ponce de León, who documented that he caught some 160 turtles here when he landed here in 1513.
In 1971 one of Dry Tortugas’s most famous shipwrecks was discovered off the coast of Loggerhead Key, one of the park’s islands. The vessel was only identified in 1990 as a Norwegian vessel which had sunk in the area in 1907 – the reasons for the wreckage are still not known today. There are still parts of it down there, which you can explore when you dive in the area.
Fort Jefferson took nearly 30 years in the 19th century to be built, and in all its hexagonal glory, it is still not finished. When you visit, you will be enthralled by the series of arches and the beautiful brickwork that constitutes this fascinating construction which was designed to protect the harbor, which was at the time one of America’s most important deep water gulfs, and it was also there to assist ships that were seeking refuge from storms or in need of restocking or refitting. If you look at Fort Jefferson from the air, it looks like it is emerging magically from the sea, because it takes up all the available ground on the island of Garden Key.
And the lighthouse on Loggerhead Key, built in the 1820s, also has some curious tales to tell. Soon after it was built, it was discovered to have a design flaw, in that one of its doors obscured its visibility to passing ships. While this was addressed over the years, it has been a problematic lighthouse, for technical reasons, which may well explain why the Dry Tortugas National Park is a repository for shipwrecks and the kind of ghost stories that revolve around such histories. And speaking of the spoils of shipwrecks, you can see a lot of the things that have been found deep under the sea, such as cannons, anchors and the like, in the South Florida Collections Management Center. These objects were retrieved from wreckages by the Submerged Cultural Resources Unit, which conducts specialist deep sea archaeological research. Indeed, there is a carefully plotted Research National Area around Dry Tortugas’s perimeter, in which the ecological integrity of the area is being explored, together with its possibilities for self-renewal.
The area was first recognized for its heritage potential by President Roosevelt in 1935, when he made it a monument under the Antiquities Act. But reaching much deeper into the area’s history, it is estimated that the archipelago was initially formed some 200 million years ago. The islands are considered as accumulated sediment on the Florida Platform, which is based on carbonate rocks and dolomite, as well as limestone, within which the pristine coral formations have been preserved. The sea around this ancient area is more than 10,000 feet deep.
The three main islands in Dry Tortugas National Park are Garden Key, Loggerhead Key and Bush Key. The other islands, which are considerably more hostile to human visitors, are Hospital Key, Middle Key and East Key. Garden Key has had the most human impact and also the location of the information desk and resource center for the park. While each island has glorious beaches, take care to adhere to the swimming rules, bearing in mind that certain areas aren’t suitable for swimming due to the force of the sea. There are many things to do in this area, including night sky watching, snorkeling and diving, as well as ranger-guided tours and paddlesports.
Located 3 miles from Garden Key is Loggerhead Key, distinguished by its lighthouse. It’s named thus because of the many loggerhead turtles which frequent the island. You can only visit Loggerhead Key during the day. There are guided hikes and tours available, but no camping site.
Bush Key is the place where two types of bird, sooty kerns and brown noddies make nests in masses between February and September of each year. For this reason, the island is completely closed to human visitors during this time. When you do visit it, however, make sure that you carefully adhere to the trails, to ensure that you don’t disrupt any natural life there.
And named for the island are the sea turtles themselves, which make them, part of the Dry Tortugas experience, if not the main attraction. Five distinct species of sea turtles – the loggerhead, the green turtle, the leatherback, Kemp’s ridley and the hawksbill, nest and breed in the area annually, but several of them are today, sadly, endangered species.
And if swimming and looking at wild life on a beautiful Edenic piece of nature is not your thing, Geocaching might be. It’s the world’s largest treasure hunt game, devised with GPS and cell phone technology to get people exploring this world, giving back to it, and discovering new things about it. The Dry Tortugas National Park has Geocaching sites for your pleasure. But remember that 99% of this national park is water, so if you’re not a water baby, you might lose out on seeing some amazing sites, including the ship wrecks under the sea, the astonishing living coral heads and historical Coaling Pier Pilings from the 1800s, among other things.
Since 2000, the park has averaged less than 70,000 annual visitors and this might have to do with it being a cherished secret some 70 miles from Key West, or with the fact that you cannot just arrive there. A visit to Dry Tortugas National Park needs careful planning and packing and if you’re not early, you might not be allowed on. The number of people allowed on the islands at any one time is strictly limited to 68, and it’s strictly on a first come, first served basis.
There is only one campsite on the archipelago, it can house up to twenty campers at a time, and it is situated at the island called Garden Key, which is where Fort Jefferson is located. To visit, you need to pay an entrance fee which is a nominal $10 per camper. It’s a “pack in pack out” area, which means you must take away everything, including your refuse, back with you. All you can leave are your footprints. And while it is a primitive camping experience, with many restrictions, and rules, including the fact that you need to bring with your own drinking water and need to provide about 2 gallons per person per day, and the fact that you cannot make a wood fire and cannot bring fuel onto the islands, it is an unbelievably beautiful place to be.
While neither spearfishing nor lobster fishing is allowed in the park, in certain areas, you may fish, but please check all the regulations before doing so. Given the litany of research, the preservation ethos and the understanding of the potential extinction of some species of fish, you don’t want to muddle with ecological balances. The National Park’s compost toilets do not work between 10am and 3pm (you can use the ferry’s facilities during this time), and campers are asked to honor the request for quiet time between 10pm and 6am in the park. Out of respect for the environment, it’s a good idea to leave electronic sound equipment at home.
Weather is always an important consideration when you are visiting an island, and this is no small matter when it comes to Dry Tortugas. The weather, similar to the sighting of American crocodiles in the terrain, is unpredictable, and it is described as borderline subtropical, but you need to take careful precautions particularly when it comes to wind, which can be quite severe.